Helicopter Carrying National Guardsmen and Border Patrol Agent Crashes in Texas, Killing 3

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent disappears into the dust as investigators drive to the site of a U.S. Border Patrol and CBP and Marine Operations helicopter resulting in three deaths north of the Rio Grande on Friday, March 8, 2024, south of La Grulla, Texas. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

LA GRULLA, Texas (AP) — A helicopter flying over the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas crashed Friday, killing two National Guard soldiers and a Border Patrol agent, the military said. Another soldier on board was injured.

The UH-72 Lakota helicopter was assigned to the federal government's border security mission when it went down near Rio Grande City, according to a statement released by Joint Task Force North. The cause was under investigation.

The crash happened mid-afternoon Friday while the helicopter was conducting aviation operations, according to the statement. No other details were provided.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, the county’s top official, said those on board included one woman and three men. He said the person who was injured was in critical condition.

The names of those killed were not immediately released.

Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, in a post on X, sent his condolences to the families, loved ones, friends and colleagues of the three people killed, and prayers for the injured soldier's speedy recovery.

“We mourn these heartbreaking deaths,” Hokanson's post said. “They are a tragic loss beyond words. All of these people represent selfless service & the best of America."

Border Patrol spokespersons did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The site of the crash is in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. The Starr County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook on Friday that it was assisting with a “downed helicopter incident” on the east side of the county.

Vera said the scene had been secured by the sheriff's office and that federal officials were on the way.

The border region is heavily patrolled by both state and federal authorities, including routine aerial surveillance.

In January, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter patrolling the state's border with Mexico lost power and crashed, officials said at the time. The co-pilot suffered a minor hand injury and the helicopter was significantly damaged.

That helicopter was flying as part of Operation Lone Star, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s nearly $10 billion border mission that has tested the federal government’s authority over immigration.

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